Good News, Bad News: Menard Fastest in Opening Practice at Michigan; NASCAR Busch Qualifying Rained Out, Sending #11 DEI Team Home Early
BROOKLYN, Mich. (Friday, Aug. 20, 2004) -- The day started out on a promising note for NASCAR Busch Series rookie Paul Menard, who clocked the fastest time in the opening practice session for Saturday's Cabela's 250 at Michigan International Speedway.
It ended on a sour note, however, as rain forced cancellation of today's qualifying session, prompting NASCAR officials to set Saturday's 43-car starting grid based on a combination of owners points, recent race winners and past series champions.
Thus, the #11 Menards/Turtle Wax Chevrolet team of Dale Earnhardt, Inc., just three races old coming into this weekend's race, has yet to accumulate the necessary owners points or other criteria, and was forced to pack it up and head home early.
Earlier in the day, Menard, who turns 24 on Saturday, circled the 2-mile high-banked oval here at 187.251 mph (38.451 seconds) during this morning's scheduled two-hour practice session, fastest among the 51 cars that took to the track. The practice session, itself, was cut short by rain. Showers persisted off and on through the morning, then became heavier as the afternoon wore on, forcing the cancellation of qualifying for both the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Nextel Cup competitors.
Next up for the #11 Menards/Turtle Wax team is next Friday night's Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, where Nextel Cup regular Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will join Paul Menard in the Menards-sponsored Busch stable driving the #81 Menards/'Save Big Money' DEI Chevrolet.
"The day was looking really good when we went out and had the fastest car in practice. But we knew all along there was rain in the forecast for the afternoon. We were just hoping it wouldn't happen until we got qualifying in because we have no provisionals. It's a shame, especially since we had such a good car. But what are you going to do? There's nothing you can do about the weather. What we can do is go back home and work hard on bringing another good car to the track at Bristol next weekend. I have every confidence we can do that."